The debate on smoke-free casino floors in Atlantic City continues. While smoking was temporarily banned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers joined by Smoke-Free Atlantic City advocate the smoke ban to remain permanently. On the other hand, operators and the Casino Association of New Jersey fear that a potential smoke ban may bring significant financial implications.
Smoking in AC Casinos Remains a Controversial Topic
Smoking in casinos in Atlantic City has been a controversial topic for quite some time. Back in 2007, New Jersey introduced the Smoke-Free Air Act, which banned indoor smoking at all venues except for the nine casinos. Although the casinos were exempt from the act, the activity was restricted to no more than 25% of the gaming floors.
Last year, after the shutdown which was introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, smoking was banned temporarily from casinos in Atlantic City. The spreading of the respiratory disease COVID-19 was a prime reason for this action.
Now, New Jersey lawmakers are trying to keep casinos in the state permanently smoke-free. Furthermore, the lawmakers’ efforts receive the support of Smoke-Free Atlantic City, which is an organization with a mission to educate and advocate for 100% smoke-free casinos.
Although the smoking ban remains a hot topic in Atlantic City, Governor Phil Murphy hasn’t taken any side for the moment. In a news conference last week, the Governor was brief and said that there is “no update on smoke, nothing there“.
A Smoke Ban May Bring Financial Implications for the Operators
The operators’ biggest fear related to a smoking ban remains revenue decline. In a statement, the Casino Association of New Jersey said that AC casinos serve both smokers and non-smokers. Furthermore, CANJ said that a permanent smoke ban may have “long-term financial implications” for the industry in Atlantic City.
“Atlantic City casinos cater to a diverse and dynamic cross section of guests, including both smokers and non-smokers.“Casino Association of New Jersey
Besides the financial implications, the Casino Association stressed that a smoking ban may place the casinos “at a competitive disadvantage with other nearby casinos that allow smoking”. Last but not least, CANJ said that the worst result of a smoking ban may be a decline in the number of customers, which may result in job loss, and “ultimately a decline in tax revenue“.
Business Volumes Increase in Q1, 2021
Undoubtedly, last year proved to be difficult for casinos throughout the country. Atlantic City was no exception. Local operators’ revenue plummeted in light of the shutdown and the COVID-related restrictions that followed once the venues reopened. The economic impact was so severe, that Atlantic City operators have seen more than 80% of the 2020 full-year profits disappear.
Despite that last year was difficult for operators, now, it looks like things are starting to turn around. All nine casinos in Atlantic City showed good results for the first quarter of 2021. Furthermore, the casinos made three times more money this quarter when compared to the same quarter last year.